Fire in the Blood

ZACKIE ACHMAT . AIDS- and human rights activist; Co-Founder, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)

Zackie Achmat (b. 1962) grew up fighting apartheid in South Africa, and has been a member of the African National Congress (ANC) since 1980. A former sex worker, he was diagnosed with HIV shortly before the country’s first free elections in 1994 and co-founded the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 1998. TAC quickly became the most important grass-roots organization in Africa (and arguably the entire world) agitating for access to essential medicine.

Despite rapidly failing health from full-blown AIDS, he refused to start antiretroviral treatment until the South African government agreed to implement a publicly-funded national treatment program for people with HIV. His boycott of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs), as depicted in Fire in the Blood, drew enormous international attention to the issue of access to AIDS medicine in Africa.

Achmat has received numerous international honours, including the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights (2003), and was voted among the “Greatest South Africans” of all time in a 2004 nationwide poll. He is currently Co-Director of the South African human rights and social justice organization, Ndifuna Ukwazi.

 

EDWIN CAMERON . Justice of the Constitutional Court, South Africa

Edwin Cameron (b. 1953) lived with HIV for thirteen years before speaking out in 1999. His decision to go public with his HIV-positive status was virtually unheard-of among prominent people in Africa at the time, and even in the intervening years exceptionally few well-known Africans have openly disclosed living with HIV. Cameron says he was moved to do so following the death of South African activist Gugu Dlamini, who was brutally murdered shortly after going public with her HIV status.

A Rhodes Scholar and prominent human rights lawyer during apartheid, Edwin Cameron is now a sitting justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court (since 2009), having previously served as justice of the Supreme Court of Appeal (2000-08). His passionate, eloquent advocacy and brilliant legal scholarship have made him one of the world’s leading voices for a human rights-based approach to access to medicine. Nelson Mandela has called him “one of South Africa’s new heroes.”

Edwin Cameron’s keynote address at the 2000 International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, as depicted in Fire in the Blood, was a galvanizing moment in the struggle for antiretroviral treatment in developing countries.

His publications include Witness to AIDS (2005, foreword by Nelson Mandela), one of the key texts of the battle for access to AIDS medicine in Africa, and Defiant Desire - Gay and Lesbian Lives in South Africa (1995).

 

WILLIAM J. CLINTON . 42nd President of the United States of America (1993-2001); founder, William J. Clinton Foundation

In 2001, after serving two terms as the 42nd President of the United States, William J. “Bill” Clinton (b. 1946) set up the William J. Clinton Foundation to address pressing global problems. In 2002, the Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI, which is now called the Clinton Health Access Initiative) was established to procure the lowest-cost ARVs for treatment programs in developing countries. By 2007, the foundation’s high-volume procurement of generic drugs had helped push prices for ARV treatment in Africa down to below $100 per patient per year. The Clinton Foundation’s wholehearted embrace of generic drugs from India and other key developing countries in its procurement efforts played a significant role in promoting acceptance of these medications and counteracting the multinational drug industry’s efforts to portray them as being less effective and generally of lower quality than their own high-priced branded products.

Bill Clinton left office with the highest approval rating (66%) of any postwar American president.

 

WILLIAM F. HADDAD . “Father of the American Generic Drug Movement”; co-founder, the Peace Corps and the Generic Pharmaceutical Industry Association; investigative journalist

William F. “Bill” Haddad (b. 1928), who made his name as a resourceful investigative journalist and innovative political strategist, has been a tireless advocate of low-cost generic drugs and campaigner for access to essential medicine for almost half a century. Founder and longtime Chairman of the Generic Pharmaceutical Industry Association (now Generic Pharmaceutical Association, or GPhA) in the US, he initiated and negotiated the landmark Drug Price Competition and Patent Restoration (Hatch-Waxman) Act of 1984. Earlier in his career, Haddad was a founder of the Peace Corps and the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) poverty program under President John F. Kennedy. He also served as senior advisor to President Kennedy, Special Assistant to Robert Kennedy’s landmark 1968 Presidential Campaign, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his investigative journalism on political corruption for the New York Post and New York Herald Tribune. He is the author of several books, including Hard Driving: My Years with John DeLorean (1985).

Haddad assembled the team of activists and other key stakeholders which secretly negotiated the groundbreaking “$1 a day” Cipla AIDS medicine offer in 2001, as depicted in Fire in the Blood. He currently serves as the Chairman/CEO of Biogenerics Inc. and is based in New York.

 

YUSUF K. HAMIED . Chairman, Cipla

Indian scientist Yusuf Hamied (b. 1936) shot to global prominence in early 2001 when he announced that his company, Cipla, a socially-conscious generic drugmaker founded on Gandhian principles of Indian self-reliance in 1935, would supply a combination of AIDS drugs to developing countries for less than $1 a day, at a time when first-line antiretroviral (ARV) medication sold for up to more than $15,000 per patient per year. A Ph.D. in Chemistry from England’s Cambridge University, where he was mentored by the 1957 Nobel laureate Sir Alexander Todd (who predicted that the young Hamied would himself eventually win a Nobel if he remained in academia), Yusuf Hamied pioneered the development of single-pill combinations of three AIDS drugs, drastically simplifying the treatment of HIV/AIDS – an innovation many in the AIDS treatment community view as being at least equal in significance to Cipla’s dramatic price reductions on ARVs. Perhaps the world’s best-known advocate of affordable drugs, Hamied worked relentlessly for more than a decade to persuade the Indian government that for a country with such immense poverty to allow monopolies on food and medicine was fundamentally immoral, impractical and unsustainable. His efforts finally culminated in the Patent Act of 1970, which eliminated product patents on medicine and eventually turned India into the “pharmacy of the developing world”, supplying all parts of the global south with affordable, high-quality medicine (the 1970 law was struck down as a result of intense Western pressure in 2005). Over the course of the nearly four decades it was in force, the 1970 Indian patent legislation single-mindedly promoted by Hamied was responsible for saving and prolonging literally hundreds of millions of people’s lives, and significantly alleviating the suffering of billions more.

Often characterized as a modern-day ‘Robin Hood’, Yusuf Hamied was honoured by the President of India with the Padma Bhushan in 2005, and CNN-IBN recently named him ‘2012 Indian of the Year’ for his leadership in drastically lowering the price of cancer medication and legally challenging frivolous patents on essential drugs.

 

WILLIAM HURT . Narrator

One of America's most respected actors of stage and screen, William Hurt has been nominated for four Academy Awards, winning the Best Actor Oscar for his performance in Kiss of the Spider Woman.  Other celebrated film roles include those in Children of a Lesser God, A History of Violence, The Big Chill, Broadcast News, Altered States, Body Heat, Gorky Park, Syriana, Into the Wild and Ridley Scott's Robin Hood.  He has a long history of social engagement and generously contributed his iconic voice to Fire in the Blood.

 

JAMES LOVE . Director, Knowledge Ecology International, intellectual property/access to knowledge activist

James Packard “Jamie” Love (b. 1950) is the founder and Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), a Washington- and Geneva-based organization which deals with intellectual property- and access to knowledge issues, and has been involved in the fight against AIDS since the 1990s. He is particularly interested in how international intellectual property policy and innovation policy impact on public health. In addition to leadership roles with various civil society groups, “he advises UN agencies, national governments, international and regional intergovernmental organizations and public health NGOs, and is the author of a number of articles and monographs on innovation and intellectual property rights”, according to KEI. Knowledge Ecology International received a MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2006.

Educated at Harvard and Princeton, Love has been closely associated with leading US intellectuals Ralph Nader and Joseph Stiglitz for many years. He has played a critical role in the global movement for affordable medicine, especially in the realm of AIDS drugs, for well over a decade, and his tireless efforts to secure low-cost antiretrovirals for Africa (as depicted in Fire in the Blood) led directly to Cipla’s landmark “$1 a day” offer at the beginning of 2001. Love has also been instrumental in promoting the idea and laying the groundwork for the Medicines Patent Pool, a mechanism intended to reduce prices and encourage combinations of newer, patented AIDS medications for people with HIV in low- and middle-income countries.

 

DONALD G. McNEIL, JR. .Health and Science Reporter for the New York Times

Donald McNeil (b. 1954) is one of the world’s most respected health reporters. He joined the New York Times as a copy boy in 1976 and has covered AIDS, malaria, SARS and other major global health stories for “the newspaper of record” in over fifty countries. In February 2001, McNeil broke the story of Cipla’s landmark offer to sell a combination of AIDS drugs for $350 per patient per year, or just below $1 a day, on the front pages of the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.

Previously correspondent for the New York Times in South Africa and France, he has also taught journalism at Columbia University.

Donald McNeil received an Overseas Press Club award in 2006 and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 2007.

 

PETER MUGYENYI  .Director and Co-Founder, Joint Clinical Research Center (JCRC), Kampala; physician, author, leading authority on treatment of HIV/AIDS in Africa

After narrowly escaping capture by Idi Amin’s secret police and going into exile, Ugandan physician Peter Mugyenyi became a leading pediatrician in the UK, but later chose to return home to terrible conditions and a meagre salary, and to retrain in HIV epidemiology, in order to help his country battle its burgeoning AIDS epidemic.

One of the most prominent figures in the global medical community who argued in favor of the idea that Africans could, and would, successfully follow antiretroviral treatment regimens (something which very few people at the time believed would happen, but which history has proven totally correct), Dr. Mugyenyi is the founder and director of the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), Africa’s largest AIDS treatment and research center, and has come to be recognized as one of the leading HIV/AIDS researchers in the world.

In 2002, he took it upon himself to order a shipment of low-cost generic ARVs from India, in direct defiance of Uganda’s patent laws, challenging the authorities to arrest him and refusing to leave the airport until the drugs were allowed into the country and guarantees were given that future shipments would also be cleared. This action led virtually overnight to a tenfold increase in the number of people on ARVs in Uganda, and effectively ended the blockade of low-cost generic AIDS drugs into Africa (today almost all Africans on ARVs take generics, the great majority of which still come from India).

Dr. Mugyenyi also played a major consultative role in the formulation of the PEPFAR (‘President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’) program, which was announced at the 2003 State of the Union address by President George W. Bush. He was seated beside Laura Bush when the announcement was made, and President Bush made reference to him in the speech. PEPFAR has since put millions of Africans on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment, and is widely viewed as by far the single most positive legacy of George W. Bush’s two terms in the White House.

Peter Mugyenyi’s landmark 2008 book Genocide by Denial: How Profiteering from HIV/AIDS Killed Millions details how Western governments and drug companies callously oversaw the deaths of millions of Africans who would never have been able to afford their branded drugs. A follow-up to this book, A Cure Too Far: The Struggle to End HIV/AIDS, was published in early 2013.

Dr. Mugyenyi was present at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, on January 20, 2013, for the North American premiere of Fire in the Blood.

 

PETER ROST . Former Vice-President of Pfizer Inc., Pharmacia and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals; physician and author

Peter Rost, MD (b. 1959), a medical doctor and native of Sweden, worked in upper management for three of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, Pfizer, Wyeth and Pharmacia, over the course of a nearly three-decade career in the industry. Increasingly dismayed by the unethical commercial practices he witnessed, he eventually decided to speak out against them. In a sensational 2004 Op-Ed in the New York Times, Dr. Rost, then Vice-President of Marketing at Pfizer, wrote: “Americans are dying without the appropriate drugs because my industry and Congress are more concerned about protecting astronomical profits for conglomerates than they are about protecting the health of Americans.”

In 2005, Dr. Rost testified before the US Senate’s Health Committee about Pfizer’s marketing practices. Representative Rahm Emmanuel, later President Obama’s first Chief of Staff, said, “I would like to nominate Dr. Rost for the Guts of the Year award... I want to thank Dr. Rost for blowing the whistle on the pharmaceutical industry, breaking down myths perpetuated by the industry that help keep prices and profits high at the expense of American families.” Pfizer relieved Peter Rost of his duties in December 2005.

Dr. Rost’s 2006 book The Whistleblower: Confessions of a Healthcare Hitman describes the illegal and at times criminal business practices he witnessed while working as an executive in the pharmaceutical industry. He has also authored a medical textbook as well as a novel.

 

JOSEPH STIGLITZ . Economist, Winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Economics

Joseph Stiglitz (b. 1943) is often referred to as “the most famous economist in the world.” He won the 2001 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and served as Chairman of the US Council of Economic Advisers under President Clinton (1995-1997), Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President of the World Bank (1997-2000, until he was ousted for publicly disagreeing with bank policy) and has been a professor of economics at Stanford, Yale, Princeton and Oxford universities. He currently teaches at Columbia University in New York and is President of the International Economic Association.

In 2011, TIME magazine named Joseph Stiglitz one of the 100 most influential people in the world and Foreign Policy magazine designated him one of its “top global thinkers”. He is the recipient of more than forty honorary doctorates.

Stiglitz has special interests in inequality, the patent system, trade and globalization. He emerged as a leading intellectual supporter of the Occupy Movement in late 2011, describing it as part of a “worldwide movement against inequality”.

Professor Stiglitz’s numerous publications include Globalization and its Discontents (2002), Fair Trade for All (2006) and, most recently, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future (2012).

 

DESMOND MPILO TUTU . Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize (1984), anti-apartheid activist

Among the world’s best-known peace, human rights and anti-racism activists, Desmond Tutu (b. 1931) is the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (1984), the Albert Schweizer Prize for Humanitarianism (1986), the Gandhi Peace Prize (2007) and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2009). He has famously referred to HIV/AIDS as “the new apartheid.”

Tutu is the patron of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation and the Desmond Tutu TB Centre and has served as honorary chairman of the Global AIDS Alliance. He is also Chairman of “The Elders”, a group of world leaders who contribute their integrity, experience and leadership in dealing with some of the world's most pressing problems. Other members of this group include Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel, Kofi Annan, Muhammad Yunus and Aung San Suu Kyi.

Desmond Tutu was the Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town from 1986 to 1996. After the fall of apartheid, he headed South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

 

 

OTHER CONTRIBUTORS in alphabetical order


LINDA-GAIL BEKKER
One of Africa’s leading HIV researchers and epidemiologists; Deputy Director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Chief Operating Officer of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation; full professor, UCT Faculty of Health Sciences.

 

DENIS BROUN
Executive Director of UNITAID (international organization set up to facilitate bulk purchase of drugs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria); physician and leading French expert on AIDS in Africa; previously worked with the World Bank, UNICEF, WHO and UNAIDS in the fields of global public health, pharmaceuticals and health economics.

 

ERIC GOEMAERE
Physician with decades of experience in HIV/AIDS, led the early battle against AIDS in South Africa as country head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF); honorary doctorate in medicine from the University of Cape Town credited him with having “transformed the reality of health care for HIV/AIDS patients”; pioneer of AIDS treatment in resource-poor settings.

 

NOERINE KALEEBA
Pioneering AIDS activist; physiotherapist by profession; co-founded The AIDS Support Organisation (TASO) in Uganda, 1987, after her husband Christopher was diagnosed with AIDS and died soon thereafter; TASO has since grown into one of the most significant civil society groups in Africa; served on World Health Organization (WHO) Global Commission on HIV/AIDS and was programme adviser to UNAIDS for ten years; first African elected as Chair of the ActionAid International Board of Trustees; author of We Miss You All: AIDS in the Family.

 

NOOR JEHAN MAJID
Mozambican doctor working on HIV/AIDS; joined the Italian Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio DREAM (‘Drug Resource Enhancement against AIDS and Malnutrition’) program in 2002; DREAM’s objective is to provide a ‘gold standard’ of AIDS treatment in resource-poor settings on par with the best HIV care in the world, and has achieved remarkable results in numerous exceptionally difficult environments; program now operates in more than ten of Africa’s poorest countries.

 

SUNITI SOLOMON
Leading Indian AIDS physician, diagnosed first case of HIV in India, 1986; founded Y.R. Gaitonde Centre for AIDS Research and Education (YRG CARE) in Chennai, 1993; YRG CARE has provided comprehensive treatment and care for many thousands of people with HIV since its founding, and is the preeminent centre for AIDS research in India.

 

OTHER HIV-POSITIVE CHARACTERS in alphabetical order

 

NOMVUSELELO (MUSI) KALOLO and LISA KALOLO
Mfuleni, Western Cape, South Africa

 

ELVIS BASUDDE KYEYUNE
Kampala, Uganda

 

PERIASAMY KOUSALYA
Chennai, India

 

KHUNDRAKPAM PRADIP KUMAR SINGH
Imphal, Manipur, India

 

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